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‘Fair’ no longer boosts performance scores; Common Core topics creep into state tests

Changes in how school performance scores are calculated were among topics addressed May 21 as the Friends of King Schools board of directors met briefly with the network’s three principals.

Friends of King chief executive officer Doris Hicks said that state test results were in hand and were being disaggregated for analysis by instructors.

Students receiving a “fair” grade on end-of-course tests will no longer boost a school’s overall performance score, Hicks said. And yet schools will not be paid to remediate or even re-test those students.

Students who receive remediation would have to go from “needs improvement” all the way to “good” or “excellent” to earn points for the school, while students who only improved to “fair” would not, Hicks said.

Lindsey Moore, Martin Luther King High School principal, regretted that some material from the  emerging “common core curriculum,” just taking root in schools across the nation, is already included on state exams.  He said this material is not yet being taught at the high school level.

“Common Core is supposed to start at the lower grades first, then gradually move up… we should be at the 3rd or 4th grade now,” he said.

An additional challenge mentioned by Moore is that state exams are switching from multiple-choice to open-answer questions. “You have to work with your teachers to move to that approach,” Moore said. “You just can’t change the curriculum overnight.”

Board attorney Tracie Washington warned the board of potential changes in per-student state funding, stemming from the Legislature’s Continuing Resolution 23.

The state’s Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) allocates money for each student, with certain multipliers applied if the student needs speech therapy or special education of some sort.

Although the Louisiana Supreme Court recently forbade funding the state’s voucher program with MFP funds, Washington cautioned that legislators still may change or remove multipliers to recoup deficits created by the voucher program before the funding mechanism was declared illegal. Such a move might reduce the money available for special-education services.

Board member Gail Armant explained that a class costs the same, whether it has 20 students or 15, but that the reduced enrollment entails a significant loss in revenue.  Even if vouchers are not paid out of MFP dollars, the program has the potential to reduce per-student money available to public schools because the overall student population is reduced.

“The private schools to which we can take a student who has a voucher do not have to accept students with special needs,” Washington said.

Other board members present included Cora Charles, Thelma Ruth, Eartha Johnson and Sandra Monroe. Project manager Sylvia Arcenaux-Ellison and other King staff were in attendance. Board members Kenya Rounds and Joe Long were absent.

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